Alyssa Stephens
Alyssa Stephens
Uganda, 2022-2023
Grace and peace to you! My name is Alyssa, and I am spending a year in Jinja, Uganda working with HEAL Ministries. HEAL is an organization that offers wrap-around services to champion sustainability and family preservation. I graduated from Belmont in May 2022 and feel abundantly blessed to embark on this new journey. Read More About Alyssa →

women’s day festivities (woot!) and a market lesson

Hey there!

You will never believe what happened this week—I started and finished this blog post early! Hehe I can’t help but feel a bit proud…and am glad to be here chatting with you once more.

As I look back on these past two weeks, the highlight that comes to mind first is the time I spent with my friend C on Women’s Day. Here in Uganda, International Women’s Day on March 8th is a public holiday, making it a special time to step away from work, be reminded of the history of marginalization women have faced, and to be encouraged by the strength and resilience of women among us and across the world.

For C and I, Women’s Day looked like a healthy balance of hanging out and celebrating! To start the day off, I went over to C’s house for breakfast, and then we got dressed up in cute dresses. We then went to the church we both attend, where a Women’s Day celebration was planned. Wow, were we surprised when we walked onto the property to see women sitting in chairs in the shade of a tree while a handful of men served everyone chapati, sambusas, and soda! It was such a sweet time of being grateful time to relax together and for the provision of tasty foods for all.

After eating, C and I took some photos together before heading inside for a program. Once everyone was gathered together, we sang song after song, praising God and dancing. One of my favorite moments from the day was when some of the ladies started dancing in the aisles. They were so full of joy and gratitude that they couldn’t help but show it! After worship, the group listened to some words of encouragement from a few ladies before stepping back outside for a special surprise—cake! Oh how we enjoyed!

As it was getting late in the afternoon, C and I headed back to her house, where we visited with the neighbors, sorted and prepared rice, and watched her children play a pretty spicy game of futbol (soccer). Eventually, her and her son walked me back to where I stay, and it was with a happy heart and hesitation for the time together to end that I said goodnight.

Just to dote on C a bit—she is caring and responsible, wise, and has a knack for silly teasings, picking great music, and making others feel at ease. Overall, Women’s Day was a special day indeed, and I feel like a lucky gal to have spent the day with C.

Something else I’d like to share that…we are on the cusp of rainy season! After several months of lots of sunshine and small amounts of rain, the community is looking forward to a time of cooler weather and growing crops. As a little introduction into the new season, last Friday morning was filled with rain! I am pretty sure that the rain started at around 1:00am and did not let up until around 8:00am. There was plenty of thunder, and when lightening struck throughout the night, our room lit up as if it was the middle of the day.

Because all the rain made road conditions bad and made traveling on bodas (motorcycles) very challenging, many of the ladies on staff and children who attend preschool at HEAL did not make it to the property. With only about 60% of the kids in the class I help in present, we combined classes with another teacher. Hehe things were a bit wobbly—we started large group activities late so that we ate breakfast and then mid-morning snack about 5 minutes apart, set aside the planned curriculum to review, and had a spontaneous afternoon dance party. While none of the teachers and students could’ve guessed that the day would end up looking this way, the change in routine keep things interesting!

On another note, I had an experience at the market the other day that ended up being a neat life lesson..

About two weeks ago, a friend introduced me to the deliciousness of adding grated fresh ginger to black tea. It gives the tea a wonderful spicy touch! After realizing just how much this little addition elevates a cup of tea, I set out for the market in order to buy some ginger.

At the market, I asked a pair of ladies if they knew where I could find “ginger,” and they gave me perplexed looks. Having heard a few people call it “jinja,” I tried using that pronunciation…but was once again met with confused looks. Hehe then, I told the ladies I was looking for “jinja for chai” and acted out sipping a cup of tea. They laughed and said, “Ohhhh, ginga (geeng-uh)” and immediately directed me to some wonderful pieces of the spice! I bought them excitedly, smiled and laughed with the women at the confusion, and then walked with a pep in my step home to make tea!

Hehe this moment was sweet—and a good analogy for what sometimes happens in conflict. How often is it that we get in little squabbles over nothing much, a little bit of one person’s expectations and desires rubbing against another’s. There may be a touch of sarcasm here or passive-aggressiveness there.

I am convinced that often, two parties in conflict have similar foundational desires—to accomplish a goal, to be part of community, to be seen and heard, to give and receive love, etc. Like the ladies at the market and I, sometimes we are saying the same thing but use different words to say it. We have the same hopes and desires but different ways of trying to bring them to fruition in everyday moments. When one calls it “ginger” while the other says “ginga,” things can get gloopy as confusion and tension builds.

By no means do I think this notion applies in all situations. It is a good reminder though that, especially in the context of conflict, it is helpful to seek to hear what another person is saying—by their words at face value, through their facial expressions and body language, and in a deeper way based on what we know about their heart. Annd to believe the best about them.

If you have any thoughts related to this—examples, experiences, and words of wisdom to add or pushback and even reasons why my line of thinking is balogna—please don’t hesitate to share.

Hehe thanks again for following along on this week’s intertwinings of highlights and reflection!

With love,


High: A couple HEAL staff members and I have developed a lunchtime routine of sitting together while we eat! We usually sit on a bright orange tarpaulin under the shade of a tree and enjoy chatting. Recently, a running joke has become that the tarpaulin is our lovely orange table and that it has been set for our time together. It has become a daily highlight to get lunch food from the kitchen and then make my way to my “seat” at the “fancy table” to eat with friends. Hehe this past week, we have even been blessed with table manner lessons from one of the ladies! How silly but fun this is!

Low: Something that I deeply enjoy about Ugandan culture is the emphasis placed on moving at a slower pace and making time for community. For me, letting this sink in has looked like checking my phone for the time less often and trying to be available for conversations regardless of where I’m going or what I’m doing. While there is much goodness in this, the combination of moving more slowly and chatting with different people mixed with being off on Wednesday meant that I had some trouble getting my work completed in a thorough, timely manner towards the end of the week. Though my assigned tasks for the preschool did get completed, it was with a bit more stress and rushing at the last minute than might have been ideal.

Buffalo: Now don’t quote me on this as the end-all, be-all, but something I learned recently is that drinking a hot beverage on a hot day can help cool us down! It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but apparently the warmth of the drink can help us sweat. This makes us feel cooler! Haha it still seems a bit odd to heat up some water or grab a cup of warm tea on a warm, sunny day, but perhaps we should try it.

Words of Wisdom: I ran across this quote by Elisabeth Elliot and have been thinking about it ever since.

“If our yearnings went away, what would we have to offer up to the Lord? Aren’t they given to us to offer?”

Maybe faith looks like sitting with our unmet but still hoped for desires and trusting that regardless of whether they come to pass or not, God is good.

cheesin’ with A while standing amidst the banana trees and greens she planted

S posing with her wonderfully-colored triangle…she is an artist in the making!


hehe a happy photo with M sitting inside + enjoying a rainy day lunch

the ladies i teach with!! they are MARVELOUS! we are on a letter T field trip to the train station

C + i at the Women’s Day celebration

hehe I using his binoculars to look for the tickle monster

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